I see a shadow skulking near
An Unholy presence one to fear
My nightmare comes to life.
Its form a twisted inhuman shape
I imagine fangs upon my nape
Talons scoring my skin.
Can I withstand a sneak attack?
Will I end a bloody snack?
Or will I escape?
Unable to meet Its steely glare
Praying to escape Its snare
And make it home alive.
My heart trips an erratic beat
The leaves rustling at my feet
The wind whipping my hair.
The mellow glow of my porch light
I thank the Angels home’s in sight
Salvation near at hand.
I grasp the latch, yet, hesitate
I ask myself, why do I wait?
Perhaps I dig my grave.
I gulp my fear and sneak a glance
Is this fate, or happenstance?
Slowly… I… turn… and…
Army Field Hospital 1st Michigan Regiment
Manassas, VA (2nd Battle of Bull Run)
she studied the dreary, poorly ventilated tent convinced her surroundings wouldn’t entice a cockroach infestation much less a healing of the mind.
She scoffed, aware of the reasons why she’d been summoned before the Alienist, so called for their study of the mind’s ‘alienation from itself.’ Nevertheless, she had only followed through on treatments that, which her conscience and training, necessitated. Her husband’s death a year earlier taught her a painful truth. Doctors did not always have the correct solutions or a patient’s wishes in mind. Her dark musings were brought back to the present by the light squeak of the weathered door. Dr. Trenton’s dispassionate gaze swept over her before he gestured to the chair in front of his scarred table.
“Please sit. I won’t waste our time with pointless pleasantries.”
“Bien sur, pas vous degueulasse.”
Uncomfortable, he shifted in his seat. “Let us try and remember that you are in America now and should strive to speak English.”
Affronted, she treated him to a glacial stare. “Dr Trenton. I am an American, born and raised in this country and of French parentage. Fortunately, my parents raised me in a home where both languages are utilized and respected.”
Heat crawled up his face. “Uhm, well, yes, fine. Let us not veer from the subject at hand.” He cleared his throat. “It has been brought to my attention you have contradicted Dr. Brooke’s course of treatment on many occasions and in front of his patients.”
“Oui.” Her choice of language was deliberate.
Trenton pursed his lips, though refrained from correcting her language.
“Is that all?” She snapped.
“No, that is not all.” Confounded by her demeanor, he removed his glasses and exhaled through his rather large nose. “Is this all you have to say on the matter?”
She lifted her shoulders. “What else is there to say? Except that you are quite accurate in your statement concerning Dr. Brooke.”
Without doubt, she knew he expected her to throw herself prostate on the ground and beg his forgiveness, or something to that effect. His anticipation of her apology all too clear. When it wasn’t forthcoming, his frown deepened.
“Well, then what is your explanation for this impertinence?”
Un, deux, trois, quatre…
She struggled to inject a level of civility into her voice when all she really wanted was to reach across the desk and slap the arrogance out of the man. “My explanation is this—my patient needed me to plead his case since Dr. Brooke dismissed the man as unable to know his own mind. Captain Lougheed knew Dr. Brooke had no intentions of entertaining any other form of treatment except amputation.”
“That is the surgeon’s privilege. Who are you to gainsay your superiors?”
My superiors, indeed. “I have been here over one year and in that time, Dr. Brooke has amputated more limbs than the other four surgeons combined. If this is not reason enough to call his practices into question then pray tell, what is?”
“Nurse Devereaux, Dr. Brooke is a highly respected surgeon and you have no right to take issue with his judgment. Your only function is to aid the surgeon in their tasks and provide the best after-care for their patients. You do a great dis-service by contradicting your betters and allowing those men false hope.”
Unable to keep a rein on her temper she jumped up, slammed her hands on the desk top and leaned forward taking no small satisfaction when Dr. Trenton shrank back in his seat. “How dare you not give those men hope! This field hospital is nothing more than an abattoir. How can I give my best care when I have been thwarted at every turn? The head nurse herself is so enamored of Dr. Brooke she would commit murder on his word. More men than I counted have died from needless wound infection, poorly managed amputations and putrid fever caused by doctors who refuse to entertain Louis Pasteur’s germ theory research which, by the way, has been in practice in Europe for some time and produces spectacular results. It is a simple thing to wash one’s hands with soapy water and sterilize one’s instruments in boric acid—to keep the men clean and comfortable. It is within the nurses’ power to grant our patients dignity, yet we, and more importantly, our patients are denied.”
He tried to interrupt but she raised her voice and talked over him, determined to have her say.
“Dear God, some of the techniques used to remove limbs is questionable practice! I spoke on Captain Lougheed’s behalf since he has only me to voice his concerns. What is more, if that is what he, or anyone requires of me, then that is what I shall do. His leg can be saved Dr. Trenton, and Dr. Brooke will not even consider it. The man only does what is easiest for him. He is an incompetent fool and you are all conspirators in his thrall.
She took a deep breath, smoothed her hands over her pinafore and reclaimed her seat. “So, if my principles mark me as a candidate for your untried theories, then I tell you this—you are wasting my time, as well as yours.”
Irate, the doctor thrust his glasses up his nose, made a show of dipping his fountain pen into the inkwell and signed his name to a sheet of parchment with flourishment.
“Nurse Devereaux, I hereby discharge you from your nursing duties. Your expertise is no longer required. The United States Army thanks you for your service to country.”
“You useless… fils de pute,” she spat and then toppled his inkwell. Childish? Certainly. Nevertheless, a flood of satisfaction raised a smile while she watched the ink ruin her discharge papers.
He scooted back from the burgeoning stain. “Now see here—once my secretary writes another discharge order for your signature, you will be dismissed. In the meantime, you are not to go anywhere near the patients.”
She strode to the door, rammed it open before turning to him. “All you have accomplished today is weaken the ward by dismissing me. If just one man dies owing to your contempt of women, you will pay for your sins eventually. Maybe not in this life, but most certainly in the next.”
I glanced up when the bell announced my first customer. Christ on a cracker, it would have to be him—I just can’t catch a friggin’ break. I tried smiling, but it wasn’t going to happen—the miserable old bastard didn’t deserve the attempt. Still, the owner of the store pounded into my head that all customers were to be greeted regardless of their shitty dispositions.
“Good morning, Mr. Ellsworth.”
“Says who, girlie, you? Your blatherings are wasted on me, so just take my order. I want six ounces of Black Jack, six ounces of Trapper’s and half a dozen of them bear claws. They better be fresher than last week’s bunch. I won’t make the mistake of buying them later in the day. Never thought Mrs. Maitland would have the balls to put out day old crap and for the price! Just proves people will do anything to make a buck these days.”
He glared at me. I glared back.
“Is that all?”
“Of course, that’s all! Do you think I’m made of money? And don’t take all day about it either, girlie. Be careful while you’re at it. Never known a female to be so damn ham-fisted.”
It required endless buckets of self-control to refrain from bouncing the heavy steel tea scoop off the nasty old goat’s skull. By the grace of whatever god was the rage these days, I managed to harness my instinct to maim, and filled his order—like I did every friggin’ Friday these past months.
“Don’t think you can short me like you did last week, girlie. I bet you thought I hadn’t noticed, but I did. Not much gets by me. You damn kids aren’t as smart as you think you are.”
I sucked in my cheeks and counted to seven. Did nothing give the guy pleasure? Anyone with a heart would cut a sob-story a bit of slack, but by most villager’s accounts, Mr. Ellsworth was a miserable human being from the moment he formed words.
“Quit day-dreaming and get to it, girlie.”
What is his deal today? Jesus.
Normally, a couple rude comments meant to end someone’s good day proved enough to satisfy his hateful nature. However, today’s bitter criticism went far beyond his usual contempt for humanity, and every Friday it worsened. The old vulgarian derived true enjoyment from inflicting verbal abuse on people. I wished I could cork his mouth for good.
Just then a thought popped up. An epiphany, more like, enabling me to see a clear way forward. Euphoric, I reached for a jar hidden beneath the counter, and while he launched into another scathing diatribe about women in the workplace, I slipped a teaspoon of the fine, dusty powder into a cup of tea. I handed him the drink.
“Care to try a complimentary sample of our newest flavor–Just Desserts?”
He accepted the offering, cast a suspicious glare at the contents, and then stuck his hawkish nose so far into the cup, I thought he might snort the contents.
He beetled his brows and glanced up. “Bout time I get something for free ‘round here.”
He blew and sipped at the tea not stopping until he slurped up the dregs. A low gurgle broke the silence. Startled, he stared at me. I stared back. He began to speak, but no words formed. He lurched forward mouth agape and eyes wild. The cup dropped from his fingers and bounced before rolling beneath the cabinet. He grabbed at his chest, and the smell of skin a-sizzle laced the air. Moments later a heavy fog enveloped the old man and he disappeared.
I flapped a towel to help dissipate the fog then leaned over the counter and peered at the floor. A pile of clothes lay in a heap where the old bastard once stood. After a tick, they too dissolved revealing a gray, grizzled cockroach.
My boss poked her head out from behind the office door, looked around and made her way over to me.
“I thought I heard Mr. Ellsworth’s voice earlier. I assume Mr. Wonderful left?”
“Yep, you just missed him.”
“How was he today?”
“He seemed a bit…bugged.”
The cockroach scurried toward the door catching the boss’s eye.
“Oh, ick!” Disgusted, she stomped on the roach with a size eleven foot.
“Where there’s one there’s hundreds more. Looks like we’ll have to get the fumigators in.”
“Yup.” I grinned. “Looks like.”
~ end ~
There is a place between the waking world, and the dream world, which has no documented name. When a sleeping person arrives in this odd place they feel as if they are floating through an ocean of stars.
Every star symbolizes the dream(s) of people in their sleep state. Here, Dream-Walkers search and sift through the dreams of those who are most vulnerable. But for what purpose? A Dream-Walker hopes to communicate with others in their dreams for the purpose of controlling the dreamers waking state, thereby changing the Tel’aran’rhiod, or, Wheel of Time. Tonight, beware the Dream Walker as you drift into slumber.
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